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Jammu martyr's wife wants land for Amarnath yatra

Jammu martyr's wife wants land for Amarnath yatra

Author: Kumar Uttam
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 22, 2008

Her husband - Kuldeep Verma - consumed poison at Jammu's Parade Ground after National Conference leader Omar Abdullah's "spirited" speech in Parliament on July 22. He had vowed to oppose the revocation of land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board. Shilpi now wants the Government to restore the land to the board, if not for anything else at least to honour the 'martyrdom' of her husband.

"Before consuming poison, he did not think about me and our two children. He embraced death for the land. I will not get back my husband, but let them at least return the land to the shrine," a grief-stricken Shilpi said.

After Omar Abdullah said in Parliament on July 22 that "we fought for our land and will continue to fight for our land till our last breath", Kuldeep - an emotive jeweller from Jammu - was distraught. The following afternoon, he left home for an "urgent work" and never returned.

Kuldeep's daughter Ashma recalls her last meeting with her father. "He got emotional after hearing Omar Abdullah's speech. But we never thought his emotions would claim his life," the 11-year-old said.

That fateful day, Kuldeep went to Parade Ground where protesters had assembled to demand restoration of the land to the board. There he read out a poem in front of the protesters, saying, "We too can show Kashmiris that we can give our lives for our land". Then he collapsed. He had reportedly consumed poison and was declared brought dead at a local hospital.

"He is the Bhagat Singh of our times. He lived and died for his country's pride. But nobody is listening," Shilpi said, adding that the way the local police, led by DSP ML Kaith, behaved was "unthinkable even under British rule".

Eyewitnesses recalled that a contingent of local policemen swooped down on Parade Ground and chased away people keeping watch on Kuldeep's body. They dragged Shilpi by her hair and threw her husband's body inside a truck. They took the body to a crematorium in Bisnah village, on the outskirts of the city, put tyres around it, sprinkled liquor and diesel on it and set it on fire.

"It was around 2 am on July 24. When I told the policemen that Hindu rituals do not allow the last rites to be performed before dawn, they tore my cloths and put me in a situation where I could not stand even before my family members. They hit me with rifles in my lower abdomen and took me away on gunpoint. There were no male members of my family around," Shilpi shuddered at the recollection.

Somehow, the villagers came to know of the development and rushed to the crematorium. The policemen had vanished by then. The villagers pulled the body out of the pyre (it was fortunately not burnt), sprinkled water on it and brought it home. Kuldeep's last rites were performed the following morning.

Nearly a month later, the situation continues to remain tense in Bisnah. The village resembles a fortress, but the police fear revenge.

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